Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Director: Chloé Zhao
The Marvel Cinematic Universe may not be quite the escapist choice of Henry's readers but please read on. This film is definitely diverting. ‘Eternals’ is the birth of a whole new cohort of superheroes who are embedded in Earth’s history with such names as Ikaris (Richard Madden), Thena (Angelina Jolie), Circe (Gemma Chan), Gilgamesh (Don Lee), etc, and they do seem to possess many of our old style Gods’ foibles, as well as new-style Marvel comic super-powers.
‘Eternals’ acknowledges the Marvel Universe as well as winking at Earth’s ancient Gods. At one stage a human lover of Circe asks why the Eternals didn’t interfere when Thanos, essentially destroyed half of humanity only 5-years previously (and in one of the last Marvel box-office busting epics). Circe explains that the Eternals specific purpose is to keep the Deviants (a super scary monster alien race) in hand. In between these Deviant insurrections (through seven and a half thousand years, more or less), the Eternal crew just attempts to blend in with human society. How they do this is just one of the ‘Eternals’ many charms, as are its flash-back sequences that flesh out the quirky personalities of each of our Eternal characters.
My favourite ‘blend’ is Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani). Kingo has chosen to be an intergenerational Bollywood heartthrob; all flashing smile, glistening hair and intensely sexy stares. He shows the re-uniting team movie posters of his great-great-grandfather, great-grandfather, grandfather, father etc, (all him of course); proudly professing to be the greatest thespian dynasty India has known.
My other favourite 'blend'? The gob-smackingly beautiful Thena (a blonde Angelina Jolie), who is virtually camping in the Australian Outback with Gilgamesh, her friend and protector. A silvery Angelina in a diaphanous robe, ‘maddening’ (a form of Eternal PTSD/dementia), set in a brutal, sunburnt landscape is truly more surreal than any Salvador Dali artwork.
So, back to this new franchise within a franchise … the Deviants have somehow come back to destroy Humankind, the Eternals are awakened and reunited to protect Humankind, and their Celestial voice from the Heavens (the Eternals’ ‘God’ for want of a better term), is urging them to stick to the script and never intervene in other earthly problems except the Deviant threat. This command has become recurringly problematic. Over the past 7.5 thousand years of bloody wars, famines, atomic bombs, environmental degradation and (of course) Thanos destroying half the human population, a number of the Eternals are questioning their very limited role as protectors; most now holding earthlings in affection and love.
Definitely not of the same calibre as last week’s ‘Riders of Revenge’ but ‘Eternals’ is beautifully rendered and has a certain old-time nobility to its storyline.
And that is not such a surprise. Chloé Zhao, director of the Oscar-winning ‘Nomadland’, has been lured by Marvel to direct the first of this new Marvel mash-up. Maybe this choice of direction is why themes such as love, protection and corruption definitely overshadow the CGI effects, though these too are impressive.